Sunday, 17 August 2014

Eighty years since opening of Silsden's park -- 'the largest voluntary scheme in the country'

Silsden Playing Fields opened on September 29, 1934, at a total cost of £12,560. Described at the time as the largest voluntary park scheme in the country, the Playing Fields were opened by the Princess Royal. Hers was the first visit to Silsden by a member of the royal family.
Above: the opening ceremony took place in torrential rain. The Princess Royal is pictured with local textile manufacturer Richard Fletcher, who was the driving force behind the project.
Above: Mr Fletcher cuts the first sod of the new recreation ground in February 1934 watched by local schoolchildren. On the right is Mr L. A. Claughton, head master of Hothfield Street School.
Above: Mr Fletcher, a West Riding county councillor, who was chairman of Silsden Education Committee and of Silsden Playing Fields Association, told the gathering that every contract for the park had been placed in the town to help alleviate unemployment, which was rife at the time. 

Above: this rather faded photograph shows Mr Fletcher and Aire View School head Miss Eva Smith, who took all her pupils to the cutting of the first sod. They are pictured at the park gates. The little girl holding Mr Fletcher's hand is Mary Cockshott. Several of today's older residents who still use the park attended the opening ceremonies.
Above: Mr Fletcher and dignitaries at the ceremony to launch the park development.

The Playing Fields, or park as they came to be known, were laid out on an 8.5-acre field called the Shooting Croft. Run by Bradford council, they are home now to all ages with play equipment for toddlers and juniors, a bowling green, tennis courts, rugby and soccer pitches and skateboarding area. It is 100 years since the opening of the modest Sykes Lane recreation ground (converted from two rough fields with a set of swings and some goal-posts), which the park replaced.
Above: the park originally included a bandstand, sited near the pavilion, the gable end of which can be seen on the left soon after the playing fields opened. The present slope and rugby pitch were created in the late 1950s. 

Above: the slides, swings and other play equipment for children have been handsomely modernised. Credit is due to Silsden Town Youth Council, which in 2009 secured funding of £70,000 for a new-look activity area.

Above: the rocks and ramps skateboarding facility was instigated in 2005 by the Youth Council.
Above: the rocks and ramps area was originally a paddling pool overlooked by a shelter.
Above: Eric Inman (left) and Bob Taylor are among several locals who have been bowling at the park for 50 years or more. Eric, 87, remembers the park being opened. He and Bob are sat on one of the two seats presented to the town by the Princess Royal when she opened the park.
Above: George Arthur Bracewell (nearest camera), 87, is a prominent player and has the distinction of winning the Leeds, Craven and Wharfedale merit competitions. Next to him is Hugh Gallagher, also in his 80s, whose bowling career was cut short by a road accident a couple of years ago.
Above: a traditional summer scene. The park is home to the Silsden Playing Fields Bowling Club, one of two in the town (Silsden Bowling Club plays at a green at the sports fields in Keighley Road). This picture was taken during a friendly game against Ilkley.
Above: in the days when shorts were only worn by schoolchildren.
Above: the club house provides bowlers with light refreshments. The social element of the game is pre-eminent.
Above: Now boarded up and, sadly, unused, the park pavilion once upon a time offered afternoon teas in summer.
Above: the summer opening of the park pavilion was a noted annual social occasion attended by local dignitaries. The well-hatted women in the foreground of this 1960s photograph include Mrs Wolmersizer (second from left), Mrs Heaton (fifth from left) and Mrs Sarah Cairns (sixth from left). Behind them in the red hat is Mrs Smithies. The bow-tied gentleman on the steps is Steve Walbank, chairman of the Old Age Pensioners Association, which organised the teas. Next to Mr Walbank is Arthur Watson, chairman of the old Urban District Council and chairman of the Old People's Welfare, which later ran the teas. Servings ceased in the 1970s. Behind them are district nurse Councillor Catherine Herbert and, partly hidden, Councillor Nellie Fortune. Councillor Bertram Mole and his wife are to the right next to Mrs Smithies.
Above: the tennis courts in the early days. The buildings, left to right, are the toilets, pavilion and bandstand.
Above: the tennis courts today.
Above: the bandstand was dedicated to Edward Newton, a nationally-known composer and conductor of Silsden Brass Band for many years. He died in 1914. 
Above: the last full-time park-keeper was Alan Johnson, who was at Silsden for 14 years before taking charge of Bradford council's Keighley district parks, including Silsden, for 21 years and then retiring. He lives at the keeper's bungalow, which is a floral treat each season. Alan still plants up the hanging baskets.
Above: the park keeper's bungalow, called Priceholm, opened in 1935. It is named after Sir Henry Price and his wife, who gave the £700 for the bungalow to be built. Sir Henry founded the Fifty Shilling Tailors chain of clothing shops and became a millionaire. He moved to Silsden in 1901 and his empire started here with a shop in Bridge Street. He soon moved to Kirkgate in premises now occupied by the Chinese take-away. He went on to own 400 retail shops selling garments made in his own Leeds factories from cloth woven in his own mills. He was knighted in 1937 and died in 1963 aged 86.
Above: Priceholm in spring many years ago.
Above: ornamental trees are a feature of the park.
Above: this bridge into the park from Wesley Place was installed a couple of years ago.
Above: a much older bridge over the beck. 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Hundreds visit centenary focus on Silsden's Story in the Great War

An outstanding three-day programme of history, remembrance and reflection marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War attracted hundreds of visitors. Hosted by Silsden Local History Group at the handsomely refurbished Town Hall from August 8-10, true stories of Silsden soldiers and local life were told in a unique  and graceful exhibition, supported by poems, readings, music, songs, toys and a revival of a concert party that 100 years ago entertained wounded servicemen in the district's hospitals. Some of the exhibition panels are pictured above and below. All the stage events attracted capacity audiences. Much-appreciated refreshments were provided by Silsden's Royal British Legion, which ran a fund-raising cafe over the weekend. 

 Above: Carol Smith, in an appropriately poppy-patterned blouse, is pictured by a panel showing some of the Silsden men who served in WW1 and whose families still live in Silsden. Top right on the panel is her grandfather, Hubert Morrell, a stretcher-bearer and Silsden bandsman. Carol is social secretary of the Silsden Local History Group and a member of Silsden Royal British Legion.
Above: Brian Sunderland studies a panel showing Ben Hodgson, who was the first Silsden soldier to be killed in WW1. A committee member of Silsden Local History Group,  Brian has extensively researched the life of Ben Hodgson.
Above: (left to right) Sylvia Wass as Mrs Raw, Anne Reay as Mrs Sugden and Bron Farrell as Mrs Fishwick portrayed ladies of the Home Front, who valiantly knitted socks and garments and organised food parcels for dispatch to the troops. Their work was seen in 'The Path Across the Heather', devised, written and directed by Cathy Liddle, which featured poems and original letters sent home to Silsden from the front line. The players also included Ray Colling as the postman (pictured below at a rehearsal).

Above: Caroline Whitaker (left) and Sue Grimley  and, below, Ernest Dodding (left) and Brian Turner were the readers in 'The Path Across the Heather.'
Above: Debbie Park starred in a popular revival of The Masqueraders concert party, which was formed in Silsden to entertain and raise the morale of wounded soldiers at the Morton Banks and Victoria (Keighley) hospitals. Debbie is pictured here with Jordan Russell in an amusing musical sketch, wooing young men in an attempt to persuade them to enlist.
Above: The Masqueraders assemble for a rehearsal. Their concert was devised, scripted and directed by David Hardman, and presented by Silsden Community Productions. The musical director was Angela Clement and the pianist was Terry Simpson.
Above: Silsden Singers, conducted by Carolyn Gill, gave a recital entitled 'Reflections'.
Above: Some of the members of the renowned Steeton Male Voice Choir who, conducted by Alan Clark (fifth from right), presented a tribute entitled 'From the Menin Gate'. Also pictured is accompanist Pat Jones. The choir, founded in 1908, has the distinction of being invited three times to sing at the Menin Gate memorial at Ypres.
Above: 'Remembrance' was the title of the performance by Silsden Town Band, conducted by Andrew Dunn.
Above: Sam and Martha Cheung enjoyed playing with period toys at the Children's Corner. Loaned by the Skipton and Grassington museums, toys and school books brought back memories for older residents.  
Above: the Children's Corner was run by Heather Ogden (right), a member of the Silsden Local History Group, and Susan Johnson. The bike is 100 years old.
Above: the Knit, Stitch and Natter Group of St James' Church demonstrated the knitting of period garments. Left to right are Christine Myers, Pam Spencer, Rene Shackleton, Caroline Setters and Sue Grimley. The group also displayed yesteryear knitwear and patterns.
Above: among the army of Silsden Local History Group members and other volunteers who helped on all fronts during the incredibly busy weekend were (left to right) Rita Farmer, Peter Gill, Pat Colling, Barbara Hetherington, Val Carroll and Brian Sunderland.
Above: a new book by Silsden Local History Group about life in WW1 as seen by a child sold well during the exhibition. Edward's Diary has been written by former Aire View Infants School teacher Beverley Anne Reay and is the story of Edward Robinson growing up in Thanet Square. Edward is fictional but the events he observes are real and took place in Silsden in 1914-18. The book, costing £3, draws on extensive research by the history group.
Above: the commemorations concluded with a service and re-dedication of Silsden's Book of Remembrance at St James' Church. The vicar, the Rev David Griffiths, officiated. The volume, containing the names of 703 Silsdeners who served in WW1, has been rescued from neglect and repaired, re-bound and restored. It now has a permanent place at the church. Commissioned by Silsden War Memorial Committee, the book was presented to the town on Armistice Day in 1926. It recognises those who died as well as 'the men who gave equal service but were not called to equal sacrifice.'
Pictures of the weekend's opening day follow below

Friday, 8 August 2014

Exhibition opened by nephew of Silsden bugler missing presumed dead on the Somme

Above: the First World War centenary exhibition was opened on August 8 by David Locker, who is pictured with his wife Jennifer. David's uncle, Bernard Locker, a bugler in the Silsden Brass Band and a regimental bugler when he enlisted, was sent to the front line in 1916 and is among the thousands missing presumed dead on the Somme.
Above: history student Lucy Millington was among the visitors absorbed by the story of Private Nelson Holmes, 18, the youngest Silsden soldier to be killed in action. He died at Ypres on December 16, 1915, shortly after writing a Christmas letter home.  
Above: the exhibition comprised more than 20 story boards together with posters and locally-donated memorabilia.
Above: Janet Robinson and son Alex are pictured alongside the story of the Faulkner family. Three Faulkner brothers were killed in the war and a fourth, shell-shocked, was committed to a mental institution, where he spent the rest of his life. He died in 1971.